by Patrick Appel
Graeme Wood reports on the battle in Tahrir Square:
The last time I saw a massive protest in Tahrir Square was in 2003, during protests of the Iraq War. During those protests, the police encircled the protesters and let them scream for a couple days. Late at night, I stood among the police, asking them about their hometowns in Upper Egypt. Then, around midnight, they were called to attention, told to harden their lines, and finally to march toward the remaining protesters, letting none escape. Truncheons came down, and within a few minutes they had rounded everyone up into paddy wagons, and the square resumed its light evening traffic. I stood almost alone by the Mogamma, only because I was standing five feet outside the police ring rather than five feet inside it.
I assume the same will happen tonight, except instead of the police, the pro-Mubarak crowds will surge and then meet in the middle. I doubt the police or army would be willing, but the mobs certainly are -- and they will not have so light a touch with their weapons. Mubarak has the initiative, and appears inclined to use it.
(Photo: An Egyptian anti-regime protester, wounded during clashes with government supporters, gestures as he is taken into a makeshift clinic at the Ibad al-Rahman mosque near the flashpoint Tahrir square in Cairo on February 2, 2011. By Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)